Cherif Boutros portraitBy: Cherif Boutros, MD, MSc 
Associate Professor of Surgery, University of Maryland School of Medicine
Medical Director, Tate Cancer Center at UM BWMC
Chair, Surgical Oncology at UM BWMC

Patient access to cancer clinical trials is a key measure for delivery of quality cancer care. Although 20% of cancer patients are medically eligible for an interventional clinical trial, only 3% of cancer patients participate. The main barriers preventing eligible patients enrolling in a clinical trial are: lack of community awareness on the importance of clinical trials; lack of information among health care providers on the importance of current clinical trials; misconceptions about the hazards which result in difficulty enrolling a patient; and finally, lack of both institutional support for building research infrastructure and adequate numbers of trained research personnel.

Improving access to cancer clinical trials requires a partnership among the health care system, the trial investigator, the health care provider, and the patient. As the leader of cancer care in Maryland, the UM Cancer Network is focused on increasing patient access to cancer clinical trials and is structured to overcome the barriers that prevent patients from enrolling in trials. The UM Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center (UMGCCC) provides the research infrastructure including the institutional review board, research leadership and training for research personnel in affiliated cancer centers. UM Cancer Network affiliates – Tate Cancer Center at UM BWMC, Cancer Institute at UM SJMC and Kaufman Cancer Center at UM UCH -- have access to clinical trials at UMGCCC, as well as membership to national clinical trials associations including Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology and NRG Oncology. As peer-to-peer educators, University of Maryland faculty share clinical trial information with community health care providers and help to facilitate enrollment at UM Cancer Network sites. Finally, community outreach and access teams focus on promoting cancer clinical trials throughout the community, within cancer symposia, media and educational resources among all UM Cancer Network institutions.

Assuring patient access to cancer clinical trials is among the UM Cancer Network’s top goals. The opportunity that the UM Cancer Network offers is clear: Resources are provided from an NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center; affiliated cancer centers, each with a long history of serving its local community, are now able to offer cancer clinical trials for patients close to their homes; and dedicated high-quality research teams with a clear vision to provide the best cancer care to our Maryland patients are present in all of our affiliated sites. We strongly feel that UM Cancer Network is in the best position to achieve this task.